One of the new buzzwords in cycling is ‘power.’ I’m no physicist or kinesiologist, so I can’t properly define the science, but ‘power’ basically refers to the watts you are producing to turn the wheels and move your bicycle.
The measurement of a cyclist’s power has become a proven useful and increasingly popular way to train. Measuring the watts of power helps provide objective data on how a cyclist performs during different types of riding (climbing, time-trials, sprints, for example), lengths and duration of riding, and can help determine how, when and how much to eat during rides, hydration, and all sorts of other conditions and variables.
Measurement comes by way of special strain gauges built within power meters embedded in one of many specific areas of the bicycle: the pedals, the crank arms, the chainring/crankset or the rear wheel hub. Essentially, anywhere torque is realized between the rider and the propulsion of the bicycle, power can be measured. The information interpreted by the gauges is then communicated wirelessly to an onboard computer like a Garmin via the ubiquitous ANT+ technology and displayed in real time to the rider, and recorded for post-ride telemetry.
Popular power meter products include:
– Garmin’s new Vector pedals
– SRM crankset (which have set the industry standard for power meters)
– Quarq crankset
– Stages crank-arm meters
– Powertap rear hub
A thoroughly excellent breakdown of many power meter products, and reviews of each, can be found on the bike-tech blog by DC Rainmaker.
Your power recordings, like your distance, speed, cadence, heart rate and the like, can be uploaded onto many websites or programs for dissemination. I use Garmin Connect and Strava for my telemetry (which you’ve seen on my post-ride entries) but have also heard that Training Peaks is a popular service – one which I will investigate further.
Once you begin recording and uploading your power, you obviously need to learn what the information means and what to do with it. A power meter’s recording of wattage is not in itself going to make you a better cyclist, rather it is an invaluable tool that can help you train to become a better cyclist. One good resource is a book which I just started reading the other day. The plainly-titled “Training and Racing with a Power Meter (2nd Ed.)” is a semi-scientific text on how to maximize training and utility of the data you’re collecting.
The power meter I use is a Quarq Elsa 10R crankset. My training goal – likely all training goals with power – is to steadily increase my understanding of my strengths and weaknesses; focus on my weaknesses in training, and increase my overall ability heading into and through the 2014 season.